Matt's Guide to Enjoying Foreign Films, Part One

I like foreign films quite a bit. I find them to be culturally liberating – the next best thing to traveling abroad, really. They open minds to new ideas and different cultures, broaden horizons and shift scopes beyond the apparent and the attainable. There’s something so invigorating about watching a foreign-language film; a sense of accomplishment follows.

It’s because foreign films prompt you – nay, order you – to stop for a moment and think. You’re actively involved with the characters and situations as you watch, intently focused on every line of dialogue. And really, what’s the point of even considering yourself a fan of good cinema if you confine yourself to the films produced within this country?

But I’ve come to the realization that a good number of people don’t enjoy foreign films. I know the supposed reasons vary person to person, but the trivial excuse that tends to surface most prominently is the old “I don’t want to have to read the movie.” This phrase not only reveals your artistic laziness, it solidifies your already-firm standing as a complete moron. If your reluctance stems from an inability to read words, I can’t help you. But for those of us a bit hesitant to experience foreign cinema, there’s hope.

I’ll be the first to admit that foreign films take extra effort to watch, but too many people miss out on too many good movies because of their hesitance to immerse themselves in a different language and culture.

So, I’ve drawn up a few steps one can take to better prepare themselves for foreign films. And no, I’m not going to make you watch “8 ½” … yet. Once you can get past the fact that you’re reading dialogue instead of zoning out and half-listening to it, perking up when a boob pops out or a car explodes, you’ll find it’s fairly easy to watch and enjoy foreign cinema. Believe me, it’s worth it. So here is Part One of my three-part series! Enjoy.

Not one for foreign films? Just amp up the subtitles!:

If you just can’t bring yourself to watch a film actually produced in a foreign country, there’s plenty of good ol’ American films that utilize foreign languages and cultures. Why, just this year we had Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima” and Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” two fine films crafted by American directors. These are foreign-language films tailored for the American audience, and are immensely accessible to the average movie-goer. Films such as these are excellent introductions to the world of foreign cinema.

Start out slow, rent what you know:
First of all, I’d like to apologize for the rhyme. I usually try to steer clear, but it just worked really well in context. I hope you can bring yourself to forgive me. OK, moving on. When renting a foreign film for the first time, don’t head straight for the avant garde section and grab the Frenchest black-and-white film you can find – rent what you know! If you’ve heard of it, chances are it’s been successful Stateside. Like action flicks? Try France’s “District B13” or Germany’s “Run Lola Run.” How about comedy? Give Germany’s “Goodbye Lenin!” a try. Looking for a good scary movie? You can’t go wrong with Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish-language horror film, “The Devil’s Backbone.” A lot of people think foreign films = dry, depressing dramas. This is not always true, folks. Before diving headfirst into more obscure titles, rent something familiar to help you test the waters.

Watch it with a friend:

Watching a foreign film can be a chore at times, and attempting to keep up with the subtitles while simultaneously contemplating the identity of the killer in a murder mystery ultimately leads to confusion and frustration. The solution? Watch your foreign film with a friend! Having someone to turn to and ask, “Is that the same guy from before, or is this a new character?” definitely helps. Plus, as the credits roll, you’ll have a buddy to discuss the themes of the film with! … I’m asking too much now, aren’t I?

Check back tomorrow for Part Two!


  1. You're looking over my shoulder right now. That's awkward. STOP IT!!!

    Anyhoo, foreign films are awesome. I liked "Angel-A" and "Paris, Je t'aime". See 'em.


  2. You mentioned something like 60% of my sub-titled films there... Apocalypto, Goodbye Lenin! and Run, Lola, Run. Definitely some excellent movies. And B13 is on the queue... Sure to arrive with a few weeks in my mailbox.


All comments are strictly moderated by this blog's administrator. Obscene, hateful, or otherwise offensive comments will not be tolerated. Racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks have no place on this blog. Spam will be promptly reported and deleted. For more information on R#09's moderation policies, please check the FAQs.